Dreaming Out Loud: Voices of Migrant Writers features essays, poems, short stories, plays & more from writing mentorship program for young undocumented and migrant writers

The literary and free expression organization PEN America has published DREAMing Out Loud: Voices of Migrant Writers, an anthology tackling themes of isolation, community and the day-to-day lives of the diverse and essential immigrant population from across New York City. The book collects writings from PEN America’s DREAMing Out Loud program, a tuition-free writing workshop for emerging undocumented immigrant writers available at various CUNY in-person and hybrid campuses throughout the five boroughs.

You can learn more about the program and the anthology at https://pen.org/dreaming-out-loud/.

With support from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, DREAMing Out Loud provides a workshop series for young migrant writers including those who are undocumented DACA recipients, or DREAMers, who came to the United States when they were children.

The nearly 50 entries span genres and styles, together painting portraits of survival and family, women’s rights and feminism, love and queerness, statelessness and belonging, and more.

  • The tastes of home become the tastes of New York for Guyanese poet Nakeisha Cantzlaar as she rediscovers her roots in “Lemongrass Tea,” “Guyanese Chow Mein (Chowmin),” and “The Swank.”
  • Suleyma Cuellar‘s short story, “Tener o no tener” (“To Have or Not to Have”) cleverly maps flashpoints from the development of the COVID-19 pandemic onto two very different but familiar New York City perspectives: a disgruntled teen and an undocumented breadwinner.
  • Russian journalist and writer Maria Pyaterneva‘s modern fable, “Old Rock City,” traces the journey of an idealistic young man as he crosses the border to his dream of a forbidden world.

“Taken together, these writings reveal key truths of growing up as a migrant in America and in New York City,” said PEN America’s Nicole Gervasio. “We’re at a critical turning point in this city and in the country, as the nation struggles its way out of a pandemic and continues to mistreat those who come seeking new journeys in the United States. These writings are the product of months of mentorship, workshopping, and more broadly camaraderie among writers who share extraordinary backgrounds and lives.”

“We are proud to support PEN America’s DREAMING Out Loud program, which provides DREAMers the ability to showcase their work and gain access to opportunities within the publishing industry,” said the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Anne del Castillo. “The latest anthology, chronicling the rich diversity of American life, is a testament to the determination, creativity and perseverance of the human spirit under the most challenging of circumstances.”

By providing community and professional support to the next generation of immigrant writers, the program seeks to counter anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. and to amplify the voices of many living in this country who are marginalized because of their immigration status. Since 2016, the program has been led by writer Álvaro Enrigue. In addition to the anthology, works from this year’s DREAMing Out Loud cohort were also featured as part of the 2021 PEN America World Voices Festival of International Literature.